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Venice Highlights

I don’t really know where to start, but my Spring Break trip to Venice was seriously one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken.  Part of it was the company; I went with two of my dear cluster mates and another friend from training, and our group just meshed really well. It was also a matter of timing; I really needed a break from teaching and Peace Corps life, and a few days in Italy made everything better : ) I feel re-energized, and ready to tackle the problems I’ve been having at my site. I was gone for 10 days total, and it was enough time away to help me adjust my perspective and actually miss some of my students, so coming back was even better.

But now onto a recap of my time in Venice, including pictures for your viewing pleasure : )

I left my town early Friday, and spent most of the weekend riding buses to L’viv so we could fly out to Venice Sunday. In total I spent more than 12 hours on the bus over the course of 2.5 days, so by the time we got on the plane I was more than ready to be in Italy : )

Here is my first site of Italy, from the plane : )

We got to Venice Sunday night, and started exploring right away. The moon was full and beautiful, so we wandered the streets looking for gelato and reveling in the sights of Venice by moonlight. We also searched for ATMs so we could withdraw euros, but that proved to be difficult. Finally Tammela got one machine to work, and treated us to our first of many gelatos : )

The next morning was slightly stressful, because my ATM card still wouldn’t work, but I managed to email my Mom about the problem from my Kindle (I didn’t know you could use the Internet on a Kindle before this trip, but one of the guys with us is pretty technically-savvy and showed me all the secrets of Kindle), and she managed to get things straightened out from the U.S. I had forgotten to call my bank and tell them I’d be using my card in Italy, so it was pretty much my fault. But I was so thankful my Mom had the power-of-attorney so she could fix it! Thanks again Mama!

So after that slight hiccup, the adventures continued as we wandered through Venice taking in open-air markets, beautiful canals with picturesque bridges, and gelato stands on every corner. We also spent a considerable amount of time shopping in the souvenir stores, trying on the exquisite masks that Venice is famous for from its Carnival festivities.

We met a cute couple in one of these mask stores who wants to join the Peace Corps, so it was fun to share about our experiences in Ukraine with people who were so interested in our work. It reminded me what a great privilege it is to be part of the Peace Corps… Its easy to lose track of that when you’re in the day-to-day struggles, but meeting people who still have stars in their eyes about life in the Peace Corps was refreshing   : ) It reminded me what I thought PC life would be like before I left home!

The best part of our time in Venice was how unstructured it was. We had no set agenda, or places we had to be at any certain time. We just wandered, sometimes with a place in mind, and sometimes just to see what we would find. The weather was very cooperative too—it was in the high 50s, low 60s the whole time we were there. (It’s nice to be able to write for an audience who understands Fahrenheit—I’m still working on my understanding of Celsius!) The sunshine made happiness inevitable… that, combined with the beauty of Venice and the scrumptiousness of Italian food and wine made for 3 days in paradise : )

We also stayed in a beautiful B&B, in the “honeymoon suite” with a view overlooking the canal. The bed there was incredible… after months of sleeping on a tiny divan that is smaller than a twin bed, sleeping in a king sized bed was pure luxury : ) Here’s a view of our B&B from outside, with us posing in the windows : )

Italian food was also pretty incredible… we managed to eat gelato four times in one day, and I’m sure the calories don’t count because we spent the whole day walking. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself ; ) My favorite gelato flavor was coffee (this should come as no surprise to those who know me), but dark chocolate was a close second (no surprise there either!).

One of my favorite meals was real Italian pizza. It was heaven in every bite!

Every day we ate big lunches outside at cafes overlooking the water, and we tried a different bottle of wine with each meal. My favorite wine was prosecco, which is an Italian sparkling wine. Yum!  I also found authentic Tiramisu, which made me think of my Dad and miss him : )

From left: Me, Andy, Tam, and Danny

For more highlights from Venice, see Venice Highlights, Part II

: )

Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to everyone at home in the US of A!

This week for English Club on Tuesday with my older students, I made Saint Patrick’s Day the theme and showed them a Powerpoint slideshow about the holiday and how it is celebrated in the US. (Fellow PCVs-check out the slideshow here if you’re interested in using it for your classes!) Here are some of the facts that I shared:

  • This holiday originated in Ireland as a holiday to celebrate St. Patrick.
  • He was a Catholic missionary to Ireland who converted pagans to Christianity.
  • Symbols of St Patrick’s Day include the shamrock, the leprechaun, and a pot of gold.
  • Historically, it was a religious holiday, celebrating the feast day of the Catholic St. Patrick
  • Today it is a secular holiday, celebrating Irish culture and history. People wear green clothes, drink green beer, and even dye the rivers green. People often incorporate the phrase, “Kiss me, I’m Irish” (even if they’re not, in fact, Irish).
  • Interesting fact: 34 million Americans claim Irish heritage

The kids were really interested in St. Patrick’s Day, as many of them had never heard of it before. I showed them a picture of Chicago, where the river is dyed green in honor of the St. Patty’s Day festivities every year, and they were blown away. “How much dye does it take?” they asked, and I told them I honestly had no clue. I think it was a tie between green beer and green rivers, as to which part of St. Patty’s Day my students found most fascinating ; )

After we finished the slideshow, I quizzed them on the information I presented to see how much of it they retained. They answered all my questions correctly, and I reminded them to wear green on Thursday and tell all their friends that they were being Irish for the day. And today (Thursday), I saw that some of my students had remembered and worn green clothing! I was so excited, and I asked the students  to explain St. Patrick’s Day to the rest of their classmates (who hadn’t come to English Club). I was thinking that they would mention who Saint Patrick was, or perhaps just say that its an Irish holiday. But no, that’s not what they recalled from English Club. The first student just said “its a holiday in America where everyone drinks green beer!” and the second student said “everyone says “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” Really, that’s all they remembered? After I finished laughing, I just explained the holiday myself, but I’m pretty sure the idea of green beer eclipsed any thought of a centuries-old Catholic missionary. They are teenagers, after all  : P